Just a word, before I continue my editorial on the above mentioned subject, on the decision of the last Synod of the Christian Reformed Church on the “Dekker Case.”
I have been waiting for an official copy of this decision in the Church papers of the Christian Reformed Church, but thus far I have found nothing, even though other Synodical decisions were mentioned and discussed. Does this mean that doctrinal matters are not considered important in the Christian Reformed Church anymore? It would seem so.
What I write now, therefore, is hearsay, or let me rather say, is an oral report by one that was attending Synod.
That report is as follows:
1. The “Dekker Case” was disposed of by Synod, after the matter had first been given in the hands of a committee and the committee reported, in about half an hour.
2. This means, of course, that the report of the committee was adopted as a whole.
3. Briefly, the advice of the committee which was adopted by Synod was:
a. That the Synod appoint a study committee to investigate the matter.
b. That this study committee report to the next Synod if possible but that, in case they could not get ready in time, they might take another year.
c. That, in the meantime, Prof. Dekker would, of course, continue to teach as he had before, namely, that God loves all men with a redemptive love.
The above is an oral report. As soon as I receive the official report, either in the church papers or in the Acts of Synod, I hope to inform our readers.
I can safely draw the conclusion that, for the time being, Prof. Dekker is justified.
But now we must continue our discussion of the subject mentioned in the title of this editorial: “Dekker, Kuiper, and H.H.”
We were going to interpret some of the texts to which Kuiper as well as Dekker refers. One of these, Matthew 5:43-45, we have already treated. We, now proceed to discuss Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11 and II Peter 3:9. O, yes, I have explained these passages too, more than once. But in spite of this, and without paying any attention to my interpretation, these texts are, nevertheless, quoted as proof that. God loves all men or that God is gracious, with the so-called common grace, to all men. Besides, they simply quote these texts without any attempt to explain them. One would almost grow weary trying to interpret passages of Scripture like these. And; perhaps, the reader will also grow weary reading these explanations.
Yet, as long as the opponents of particular grace and particular love quote these texts for their own purpose, they must be answered.
This is true of Kuiper.
In order to defend Dekker (and this he surely does), he refers to these passages of Holy Writ.
He agrees with Dekker.
Whatever he may write in the rest of the article is of no avail, as long as he agrees with Dekker that somehow God loves all men.
But do the texts from Ezekiel prove this?
Not at all.
The texts referred to read as follows:
Ezekiel 18:23: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his wicked way and live?”
And in Ezekiel 33:11: “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no .pleasure in the death of the wicked:’ but that the wicked should turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of. Israel?”
On these passages, I make the following remarks:
1. In neither of these two passages “all men” are addressed. The reference is not to all men, but to the house of Israel. In other words, it is not all men, in general, but the Church of Christ that is addressed. This is very plain from the context of these verses as well as from the text in chapter 33:11. As far as the context in chapter 18 is concerned, we read:
“Yet ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel: Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? . . . Yet saith the house of Israel, the way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? There fore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be our ruin . . .”
Also in Ezekiel 33:11, the house of Israel is addressed. The prophet is not enjoined to speak these words to the Babylonians, or the Egyptians, or to any other nation, but only to the house of Israel.
2. The point, I wish to make is, of course, the texts quoted from Ezekiel cannot possibly be used as a proof that God loves all men. God loves His people, the righteous, the elect, and no one else. And even the preaching of the Holy Gospel is no proof that God loves all men for even in the new dispensation the Gospel does not reach all men but only a comparatively few.
3. Besides, do not overlook the fact that both these texts are not general, but very particular. For the Lord, in both the passages, does not enjoin the prophet only to tell his hearers that God has no pleasure in the death of all the wicked, but only that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked that repents; He has pleasure in this “that the wicked turn from his evil way and live.” And who will hear this word of God? Who will turn and repent? The one that received grace from God to do so and no one else. The text, therefore is not general, but particular.
To be sure, Kuiper blames me for writing that the doctrine of Dekker is rank Arminianism.
But what is Arminianism?
Does not Kuiper know? I suppose he does. But if he does, he ought to know, too, that the “First Point” of 1924 is “rank Arminianism,” for it teaches that the saving grace of God is intended for all men individually, for this grace is manifest in the general offer of the gospel. And, surely, this is the teaching of Prof. Dekker for in the March 1964 ‘The Reformed Journal” he writes literally: “The Gospel is God’s good news—the good news that He ‘so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16) and that Christ Jesus . . . ‘gave himself a ransom for all’ (I, Tim. 2:5). For whom is this news? For the world—for all men. God loves all. Christ died for all! It is our joyful task to tell all men the news.”
All this is “rank Arminianism?
This is literally expressed in the work “The Writings of Arminius,” Vol. I, pp. 316, 317:
“Christ died for all men and for every individual.”
“This assertion was never made by me, either in public or in private (It was, however, made by Dekker and, as what follows will show, also by Arminius, H.H.) except when it was accompanied by such an explanation as the controversies which excited on this subject have rendered necessary. Thus it may mean either ‘that the price of the death of Christ was given for all, and for every one,’ or that ‘the redemption, which was obtained by means of that price; is applied and communicated to all men and to every one.’ Of this latter sentiment I entirely disapprove, because God has by a peremptory decree resolved that believers alone (mark this expression “believers alone,’ H.H.) should be made partakers of this redemption. Let those who reject the former of these opinions consider how they can answer the following Scriptures, which declare, that Christ died for all men; that He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2); that He took away the sin of the world (John 1:29)? that He gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51); that He died even for that man who might be destroyed with the meat of another person (Rom. 14:15); and that false teachers made merchandize even of those that the Lord bought, and bring upon themselves swift destruction (II Peter 2:1, 3). He therefore who speaks thus, speaks with the Scriptures, while he who rejects such phraseology, is a daring man, one who sits in judgment on the Scriptures and is not an interpreter of them. But he who explains those passages agreeably to the analogy of faith, performs the duty of a good interpreter and prophesier (or preacher) in the Church of God.”
What, then, according to Arminius, is correct interpretation of all such texts. For this Arminius quotes Prosper, who himself taught that Christ died for all men.
But is it not surprising how many texts those that do not believe in the sovereign grace of God can find in the Scriptures?
Of course, if one will only interpret the texts to which Arminius refers above in the light of the whole Scripture, he will have no difficulty to explain them without seeking refuge in paradoxes as Kuiper does.
Let me quote one more proposition made by Arminius. It is this:
“The works of the unregenerate can be pleasing to God, and are (according to Borrius) the occasion, and (according to Arminius) the impulsive cause by which God will be moved to communicate to them his saving grace.”
Now, Arminius, first of all, denies that he ever made this proposition. According to him, his opponents (probably Gomarus, H.H.) invented it.
But when he tries to explain the matter, it becomes rather evident that the statement must, nevertheless, be attributed to him. For he writes:
“1. For the word ‘the unregenerate’ may be understood in two senses, a. Either as it denotes those who have felt no motion of the regenerating Spirit, nor of its tendency or preparation for regeneration, and who are therefore, destitute of the first principle of regeneration. b. Or it may signify those who are in the process of the new birth, and who feel those motions of the Holy Spirit which belong either to preparation or to the very essence of regeneration, but who, are not yet regenerate: that is, they are brought by it to confess their sins, to mourn on account of them, to desire deliverance, and to seek out the Deliverer, who has been pointed out to them; but they are not furnished with that power of the Spirit by which the flesh, or the old man, is mortified, and, by which, being transformed to newness of life, is rendered capable of performing works of righteousness.”
A strange explanation. Nevertheless, it ought to be evident that Arminius really teaches that the works of the unregenerate (or who are not yet regenerate) can be pleasing to God.
But I am digressing. But this proposition, that the unregenerate can do works that are pleasing to God, reminded me rather strongly of the second and third points of Kalamazoo, 1924.
Next time, D.V., I hope to return to the subject proper.